Number Two: Isak Dinesen
True Gothic Literature, at least in my opinion, is best from the past, Mary Shelly, Wilkie Collins, John Bellairs, Edgar Allen Poe, Fyoder Dostoyevsky to name a few. "Seven Gothic Tales," by Isak Dinesen are metaphorical, romantic, and emotive, and lifted a typical teenager's angst out of her foolish self and into the height of fine literature. Reading her short stories spun with dexterous hands, my head was filled with much richer, and far more beautiful, and more real ideas of passion than what I was experiencing wandering the yellow lit halls of my high school, peering into the library to see if He was there, murmuring habitual conversation to my fellow 'undevelopeds', and then wandering out into the field to sit under the trees and puzzle through the harsh wrongness of all my daily actions. I am happy to say I am much more well adjusted. Well. More anyways.
Number Three: Shel Silverstein
Do you remember "Where The Sidewalk Ends", "A Light in the Attic" and "Falling up"? I remember sitting his thick collections across my school-socked knees when I was in elementary school and reading to my mum as we whipped around doing errands in her eleven seater van. He was the author of the famous story "The Giving Tree," which is beautiful and touching. He is also the author of the poem, "Monsters" in which a father solves his little boys worries about the monsters under his bed by getting eaten by them, and "The Googies are Coming," in which you learn that the going rate to buy children to eat is 'fifteen cents for dirty ones' and 'a nickle each for mean ones'. What I loved most about Shel Silverstein is that even tho he wrote for children he didn't write down to them. His poetry was humorous and silly but read as tho he was thinking aloud ridiculous things and writing them down. His style was conversational to me. If you have never read his stuff I highly suggest doing so and reading 'em out loud is even more fun.
Number Four: Lewis Carroll
"Alice in Wonderland," was, and is, one of my first books that I truly adored and read till it fell apart. Besides the obvious example of the Red Queen and her catch phrase of 'off with their head', the book has a lot of other little examples of delightful morbidity which continues on into the sequel, "Through the Looking Glass." The entire story, nonsensical tho it has been described, is written in an intelligent and purposeful way. Lewis Carroll is another children's author that doesn't write down to his audience but rather understands and cares for their point of view. The Mock Turtle, Mad Hatter, and the Red King; it's all upside down and sideways but the best of it is that Alice, a small girl, is the only one that seems to be capable and rational, in her own way. I've read that Carroll wanted to write something different as most books written for children of his age were long tedious sermons on children's behavior, and it seems to be true. The adult figures in the novel aren't to be depended on for anything. They are either throwing pans at each other, dreaming up nonsensical things, or having tea parties were everyone is mad. At any rate he created a sinister, and twisted world that is delightfully lacking in rules but is traversed safely by a little girl who keeps her head and uses her common sense. Doesn't get much better than that.
Number Five: Roald Dahl
Most everyone has heard of the famous Roald Dahl. From "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," to "Matilda" and "The BFG." (There is a teaser trailer out for The BFG and I REALLY hope they do a good job with it because it's my favorite one) Most all of his novels show that he has a sense of humor that is grounded in nasty people having nasty things happen to them. All you have to do is read the bit in "James and the Giant Peach," about his terrible aunts getting flattened and you know that you're settling in for some classic Dahlism. I have encountered some people who believe that Roald Dahl writes too much from the children's point of view, and that his stories are devoid of moral lessons and social formation necessary for children. l disagree. The heroic children have good sense, courage, and many admirable qualities. The ugliness, badness, and terrible behavior that is so often rightly punished in his stories is not only reserved for the adult characters, tho that is a definite theme. The children who exhibit what are considered awful habits and behaviors in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," are punished with being stretched, dumped down a garbage chute, and being shrunk to the size of a small mouse. In conclusion I applaud Roald Dahl's ability to write children stories for children and encourage their self-growth and self-realization. Three cheers for 'Human Beans', 'The Shrinks', and making medicines out of floor polish and gin!
Number Six: Beatrix Potter
You may not agree with me on this one. Her name may conjure up beautiful watercolors and little animals in waistcoats and bows. However, her stories, now that I read them to children as an adult, have a quality that I never realized; their ability to tell the story from the animal's point of view. Many anthropomorphic tales give more human qualities than non to animals but her characters are more similar to "Watership Down" than you would expect from a simple children's story. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle may have been a hedgehog washer woman but her client Sally Henny Penny has worn out her stockings from scratching in the yard. Jemima Puddleduck's story begins with her trying to find a place to lay her eggs, a very natural thing to do, and having them consequently found and confiscated by the farmer's wife because Jemima is a 'poor sittter'. She then follows the advice of a fox who has private plans to eat her. Mrs. Potter doesn't leave out the violent actions of the animal characters which makes me guess she had a sardonic sense of humor. In "The Tale of Samuel Whiskers", Tom Kitten has a run in with two rats who live under the floorboards and try to make him into a pudding for crying out loud. They even have a discussion over 'wether the knots (of the rope they tied the kitten up with) would have proved indigestible.' Two thumbs way up.